Do you need to technology to Universally Design content? Yes and No. Like that answer? Given this is the political season I figured it would be safe to give a some what political answer. Haha, but seriously to do great designed lessons you really don't need high tech technology. Instructors can put together incredible content and learning experiences with little to no formal technology at all. But the question is, if we have access to technology and our students' current stories have technology as an embedded plot line why wouldn't we use it?
The reality is Universal Design for Learning forces partitioners to put technology in its proper place, as one of many tools to solve problems. With that said, we all must acknowledge what a powerful tool technology is because of the complexity, depth, and speed with which we can tackle problems. Concepts that kids were previously lock out of due to their only being presented in text and maybe a picture, are now open for students with the advent of tools like youtube, virtual field trips, 3D printing, Prezi, and screen casting. The amazing simplicity of UDL in finding clear goals that can be represented and expressed in a myriad of ways, naturally lends its self to the exploration and efficiency of finding those ways out. Technology is proving to be a very helpful tool toward that end.
Universal Design for Learning also protects us though from some of the pitfalls and dangers of over technology use. By being so learning and goal focused Universal Design for Learning forces practitioners to value all learning variability, even "old school" variability. Universal Design for Learning embraces technology but it loves it for the learning it brings and the ways in which it helps meet goals, NOT the bells and whistles it brings with it (though it thinks those are really cool too).😋
A Cautionary Tale. So last year in our beginning pilot trainings I dove into tech as the primary means of representation and expression for focus learning about UDL. We were doing fantastic Prezies, learning UDL principles via video games, all the notes were on google drive via a shared folder, and all was shiny and new in terms of the tech connections. Midway through the year though, a teacher came up to me and asked for handouts. I had stopped printing handouts because all was available online and in one of those fancy means. I was taken back! Handouts! But for her she really felt comfortable handwriting notes on handouts. She also happens to be a calligraphist and has beautiful handwriting. For this teacher the technology was actually a barrier for her accessing content. Rather then force her to acquiesce to my design paradigm, I had to go back and reevaluate the goal of our trainings. The goal wasn't to learn new technology, it was to learn UDL and to put it into practice each day. If I am honest my first inclination was to want to teach the technology and for teachers to experience the technology, if it wasn't for Universal Design for Learning, I would have totally taken my preferences over those of the teacher group. I could have easily made technology knowledge a prerequiste for Universal Design for Learning knowledge. So now needless to say, all presentations and professional development has handout options that teacher are welcome to grab should that be helpful for them.